In May of 2011, Tasbeeh Herwees wrote an excellent piece for Neon Tommy, entitled Hollywood’s Race Problem: On Ashton Kutcher And “The Dictator”. A small section is included below, although the piece is so good that I urge you to read the entire thing on the original site.
In the context of contemporary politics, it’s easy to see why such a bigoted portrayal of a racialized group of people has become so commonplace and normalized in our entertainment and media industries. After all, Arabs — and brown people around the world — are being murdered every day, often by American drones, American policemen, and Israeli gunfire sponsored by American taxes. This reality would be a lot more difficult to contend with had we — Western media and its consumers — not constructed Arabs and people of color as inherently violent, one-dimensional barbarians already killing themselves. Americans sleep better at night thinking their tanks and missiles and soldiers only kill people like “The Dictator” and not like the children they send safely off to school every day. They feel better about themselves thinking “black-on-black” crime is a fundamental inevitability, a social fact, and not a symptom of structural racism.
Hollywood, ultimately, is the one losing out. In the ongoing revolutions of this year, Arabs are heroically rising up against violent, repressive regimes and speaking truth to power in the face of guns, tear gas and extrajudicial executions, and the only story Hollywood could tell is one about a silly little dictator who fell in the face of their power.